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Thomas Friedman: 'We're seeing the end of the Saudi ruling family' in its current form

  • There's a revolution happening in Saudi Arabia that could change the kingdom forever, says the New York Times columnist.
  • "This is the new way. There's going to be one family," Friedman explains.
  • If Saudi Arabia were a stock, Friedman says he would rate it as a hold.

There's a revolution happening in Saudi Arabia that could change the kingdom forever, said Thomas Friedman, the Pulitzer Prize-winning New York Times columnist and best-selling author.

"We're seeing the end of the Saudi ruling family" as the world has come to know it, Friedman said Monday on CNBC's "Squawk Box," after the Saturday arrests of four ministers and 11 Saudi princes, including well-known billionaire investor Alwaleed bin Talal. They were detained as part of what was called an anti-corruption purge, in the latest dramatic steps undertaken by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, also known as MBS.

Earlier on CNBC, Robert Jordan, former U.S. ambassador to Saudi Arabia during George W. Bush's presidency, put the weekend roundup in the kingdom through a U.S. lens. "This would be like arresting Warren Buffett or Bill Gates." Jordan also questioned whether the arrests were a play by MBS to consolidate his power.

"This country was ruled by a family and different wings of that family each got their turn based on which brother," said Friedman, who has reported extensively from Saudi Arabia.

"This is a regime that basically governed for 20 years ... one ailing king after the other," said Friedman, a three-time winner of the Pulitzer Prize for international reporting and distinguished commentary. "That is now over. This is the new way. There's going to be one family."

MBS, the 32-year-old son of King Salman, could become ruler later this year or in early 2018 when his 81-year-old father abdicates the throne. In June, Saudi Arabia removed then-Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Nayef, 58, from his role and replaced him with his younger cousin.

The current crown prince is also trying to diversify the Saudi economy, traditionally tied closely to oil revenues, through a plan called "Vision 2030."

When asked how investors or business executives should see the nation after the crackdown, Friedman responded by saying if Saudi Arabia were a stock, he would rate it as a hold, adding that "it's not a buy, it's not a sell, it's a hold."

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